Entries tagged with “Holidays and Special Days”.

larval baby jesus
Image by Dane Larsen via Flickr

On a past weekend (12/18-12/21), we went to church 2x’s.  Yes I am bit on the overachieving side, but not usually when it comes to listening to sermons while sitting in the pew (or other uncomfortable chair).  Friday night was our usual Seward Church gathering and on Sunday we went to Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis, which is where my wonderful wife went to church growing up. Last Monday I shared the message from Seward Church, so today is the one from The Crossing.

Steve Rennick shared the Christmas story for us, starting with Luke 2:1-20. Luke gives a special emphasis to the shepherds and the angels in the Christmas Story.  The shepherds were minding their own business in the field when out of no where came a ton of shiny angels (vs 8-14) where they were told that they shouldn’t be afraid of the angels.  The angels delievered the good news and the shepherds immediately travelled into Bethleham trying to find this baby Jesus upon their arrival they worshipped Him.

Knowing that Christmas is incomplete, the next stop is Matthew 2:1-12. The baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem which fulfills the prophesy in Micah 5:2. Steve pointed out that the entirety of Luke’s Christmas story, all 20 verses of it, fits into 1/2 a verse in Matthew 2:1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.”  We traditionally think of their being 3 Magi and 3 shepherds, but there is no Biblical truth to this matter.  We get the number 3 because of the three gifts that were brought, but in reality it could have been hundreds of Magi.  Another Christmas misconception or at least a nativity misconception is that the Magi and the shepherds visited the manger at the same time.  In reality the Magi came at a later date and met the family of Jesus at a home (vs 11).  The three gifts gold, frankincense, and myrrh were ultimately used to fund the family’s “exile” in Egypt. Some of these thoughts are new and insightful to me.

A third perspective on the Christmas story come from John 1:1-5, 9-14. If you are familiar with the John story, you know it is a very different perspective on the coming of Jesus.  Steve called it a more theological or upper perspective.  It could be the God view of the story.  It tells it straight up with no sugar – Jesus, the Good News, has come into a dark world to shine light and bring peace.

The final and shortest part of the Christmas story is from Mark 1:1. It offers no information other than that Jesus represents the beginning of many good works!

What is the point of sharing the Christmas Story? It is important to realize the truth of the story (much like looking at the darkside) but it is also important to realize that Jesus represented, as Mark says, the beginning of the good news and many good works. We know that Jesus performed many great works during his 33 years on Earth.  Steve was sharing the story to offer us a challenge.  Jesus could easily fill many libraries full of books on his 33 years (John 20:30-31, 21:25), yet Steve implied that Jesus is still working and acting today – through us.  He asked several times what John 22 might look like if it were written about us…

We are a part of the Gospel story – not the canonized version – but the ongoing story of good news and salvation.  Can we obey God’s desires and serve Him?  Steve challenged us to ask ourselves this question as we prepare for 2009:

God, what do you want to do through me, what do you want to do to me, and  what do you want to do in my life?

He suggested we dream big and set no limits, just wait, pray, and see where God takes you.  It is an interesting connection, using the Christmas story to challenge us for the beginning of 2009. I have trouble recalling it and tying it all together but you can listen to it here (sometime soon).

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German painting, 1457

Image via Wikipedia

We are in the season of Advent or the season of waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ to be born.  Or as it has become known the Christmas Shopping Season.

For the past several years groups have been spending a lot of time and energy advocating around Christmas time.  Some like Focus on the Family do campaigns encouraging you to boycott stores that don’t advertise Christmas – using generic words like holiday. They’ve actually taken it to the extreme this year setting up a rating system using terms like Christmas-friendly, Christmas-negligent, and Christmas-offensive.

Other groups have been less concerned with the terminology used but more with the idea of getting back to the meaning behind Christmas and focusing less on the materialism side.  One group this year is called Advent Conspiracy. Which is trying to encourage people to give the gift of presence this year.  Their campaign has four tenants –

  1. Worship Fully
  2. Spend Less
  3. Give More
  4. Love All

What do you think? Christmas has always been a special time of seeing friends and family and celebrating the birth of Jesus. But as I’ve gotten older it has been harder and harder to come up with gift ideas for myself and for my family.  It seems that I buy myself the vast majority of things as I need them or the things I’d like to get are unrealistic – a new laptop, a suit, etc – for any one person to buy. I’ve told my mom for years that she didn’t have to get me anything special, a gift card would be fine.  Unfortunately, her primary love language is giving gifts – so she has to give gifts!

I really enjoyed this video from Advent Conspiracy.

It is crazy how much money gets spent each year, how much debt is incurred, all in the name of our Savior.  He would not be pleased with this.  Do you remember that He was born in a barn? Yes, next to the animals.  He is not honored by our extravagant gift giving. He is honored by the love that we share with those around us.  He is not honored by lots of decoratively colored boxes under a dead tree.  He is honored when we are willing to sacrifice our lives for others, like He did on top of a dead tree.

Just some things to ponder this Christmas…

HT Carol’s Place

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We don’t celebrate a traditional advent at The Bridge.  In the last three years that I’ve attended (and its existed) this has made for a different holiday season than I’m used to.  This week Chris’s message was excellent and Bono even paid a short visit!

I must say it was a little interesting using Jonah as the basis for the Christmas story, but it tied in very nicely. The main point of the message was that we should love people rather than judging or condemning them.

Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites and knew deep down that if he presented the message of salvation to them that they would probably be saved.  This happened in Jonah 3:10 “… He [God] had compassion…” Jonah’s plea in Jonah 4:2 is almost funny but sad,  Jonah was so angry about God’s compassion for the heathen! “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

God does not want His people walking around the earth holding His love inside their hearts or in some niche group and condemning everyone else.  Look what happened to Jonah when he tried.  Matthew 5:43 commands us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.  That definitely isn’t an easy task and it should be done in a healthy and Spirit-filled way.

Finally from Hosea 6:6 we learn what God wants from us:

I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

Rather than focusing our energy and time on hatred and condemnation, God calls us to be a people of mercy and compassion. (excerpted from this week’s discussion guide)


Chris made a point at the beginning to say that we are often more charitable this time of year, than during the other 11 months.  He clarified that God wants us to live with love 24/7 all year long.

Make a list of people or situations that you need to let go of and focus more on loving those people instead of harboring ill feelings or judgement. Pray for God to help you to do this.

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